Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review - Playing a Part, by Daria Wilke

Quick quick Friday post, lifted from my Facebook page with a couple of edits.

I don't do a lot of book reviews, and don't know how many of the folks who visit here enjoy YA fiction, but I recently picked up Playing a Part, by Daria Wilke, translated by Marian Schwartz, out of the giveaway bin here at work and really enjoyed it. It's a sort of a quirky little book that travels in territory far from the hot YA trends (vampires, werewolves and dystopian futures, oh my
) and so maybe hasn't really found it's audience. I ran into the publisher on the elevator while I was reading it (it's an Arthur A. Levine Press book and we're on the same floor here at Scholastic) and told him how much I was enjoying it - he said to tell my friends, so here you go!  

The main character is a young man by the name of Grisha who is dealing with growing up gay in Russia. Russia is of course an awful place to be gay, and that's source of some of the conflicts that drive the story, but there's also nepotism and ageism and maybe a few other isms too. Funny thing is that one of the frequent "criticisms" on Goodreads is that the story doesn't focus enough on Grisha, but I actually really liked the way his connections and relationships with people of other generations were given such weight, rather than the adults just being bit players in the lives of the young people in the story. 

What really gave this story an intereresting and unusual feel is that Grisha's parents are actors at a puppet theatre and that's where he's grown up and feels the safest. The descriptions of the theater, the puppets, performers and performing, puppet makers and puppet making are just luscious.

It's a quick read, but a satisfying one.

Click here for the Goodreads page.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Curses! Plasticked again!

Tuesday, 5/26, 11:36 P.M. - I posted the following triumphant announcement on Facebook: "Ha, well I believe I had that zero net plastic day I was trying for the other day! Today, I didn't buy any (or accept any for free), and I didn't throw any away. Came this close to botching it again by stopping to buy bread at the store in Newkirk Plaza but caught myself just in time."

And having crowed my little crow, I got up from the computer, walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and decided that my ears needed cleaning. With a q-tip, which was plastic, and which I threw away (well, I wasn't gonna save it, that would be disgusting), thereby once again blowing it.

Curses! Foiled again! Or plasticked again, more like. Sneaky freakin' stuff! 

Today had potential but that got fouled up by my unwitting acceptance of a sandwich pick, the kind with the little decorative plastic ruffle on the end that my sister and I used to call "Barbie kahili", at lunch.

This is turning out to be a trickier thing to do than I thought.

If you missed my first failed attempt, and what brought this on, and why this post is labelled "Hokule'a NYC", you can read that here

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great news from PortSide NewYork!

It's been a long wait, but after a long sojourn at a freight terminal where TWIC regulations meant limited access, tanker Mary A. Whalen will be moving to a new long-term, publicly accessible home at Pier 11 Atlantic Basin. She'll be moving on Friday, there will be some fun kick-off events over the summer beginning in June, and regular programming should resume by Fall 2015. So exciting!
Click here to read the full press release. Welcome back, Mary A. Whalen!

Chiclet - PortSide NewYork Ship's Cat and Chief Supervisor. Hi Chiclet!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Birthday sail!

By pure coincidence, the first Sebago Sailing Committee Sail Cruise of 2015 happened to be on my birthday. The forecast was getting up to borderline intimidating for a first sail of the year by Sunday morning, but I had my heart set on it and TQ was game to come along. We had a blast. Photos end after lunch because by then there was a strong south wind and we just screeched back to the Paerdegat - needed both hands to keep it together. Tons of fun! Click here for more pix on Flickr.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Plastic-Free? Nope, Not Me.

Not today, anyways. I tried. I did. Not sure whether it's funny or sad how I failed - maybe a little bit of both. Either way, it seemed worth sharing. I was doing so well up until the corn.

I haven't been making a big deal of this on social media or anywhere else, it's just been sort of a personal thing, but since I've gotten involved with the NYC welcoming committee for the Hōkūle'a when she stops here during the East Coast leg of her amazing Mālama Honua voyage, I've set myself a small personal challenge. Mālama Honua means "Care for the Earth" (well, it's a little more complex than that, but for the purpose of this post, the simplest translation will suffice) and I figured that if I was going to be involved with the effort, I should do something of my own to honor that.

I think that as Americans go (big qualifier there, of course), I'm not too bad. I've never owned a car; I mostly use public transportation or my feet to get from here to there; I don't fly a whole lot; except for my clock radio, I turn my electrical stuff all the way off when I leave home; NYC has done a good job of training people who live here to at least pretend we're recycling (I don't think they're anywhere close to actually re-using all of that stuff that we carefully sort and deposit in green or blue bins, but I think the idea is that eventually better use will be made of the stuff, and when that happens, the supply will already be firmly in place); I compost my veggie scraps at the club; and I mostly only drink tap water (and when I buy a bottled beverage I usually reuse the bottle as a water bottle numerous times - I know people freak about re-using but really, how much leaching is going to happen if you fill the bottle with water and then drink it over the next few hours?). I don't make a fetish of any of this, these are just things that are pretty easy to do when you live in NYC.

However, there's been one front on which I have been pretty lazy, and that is plastic use, so that's what I decided to work on for my own private little m
ālama honua. Biggest thing I've done is lunch-related; we have a pretty good cafeteria at the Really Big Children's Publishing House, and I get lunch up there pretty regularly. I usually have lunch at my desk, and I used to always bring the food down in one of those disposable plastic clamshells. These days, I've begun bringing a clean reusable container up and asking to have my food put in that. I felt a little weird doing that at first but the cafeteria folks don't seem to have any problem with it at all. Nice. I did get in BIG trouble at the Duke's Cafe deli on Broadway one time when I tried to use the same container at their salad bar - I don't know how walking up to the salad bar and filling a container that's actually slightly heavier than the clamshells they use could possibly be a problem, but evidently it was, I had to beg the cashiers to sell me the food I'd put in it just this once ("No, please, I promise I won't do it again!") instead of throwing it (and my container) in the garbage - they were THAT freaked out. Ah well, win some lose some, it was worth a try at least. 

I've also been stricter with myself about grocery shopping when I don't have a bag. I've done this in a halfway fashion for a long time, bringing bags if I was planning on shopping, but if I ended up shopping unexpectedly, I would take the proffered plastic. Since most of my spontaneous shopping ends up happening in the four blocks between the subway station and home, that's just plain lazy, it's so easy to go home and get a bag, so that's what I've been having myself do. I have this apparently inexhaustible bag of bags under the sink so I'm using those more, plus I find myself carrying a bookbag (one that can serve as a grocery bag if the groceries aren't messy) a lot more since I started in on this.

I've been doing this for a while. Again, I'm not making a big thing out of it, I haven't got the heart of a purist, but I am trying to be more thoughtful about these little throwaway plastic thingummies that are so ubiquitous in our lives. Today, though, after a banana for breakfast (skin will go to compost) and a lunch in my reusable tray, and knowing that I had leftovers in the fridge at home, it began to dawn on me that I might actually pull off a day where I neither purchased nor disposed of any plastic, which I thought would be pretty neat. It ended up being a late night at work, I had to fight off the temptations of all the plastic-wrapped snacks and goodies in the vending machines at work and the bodegas on the way home, but I made it all the way home (woohoo!) where I went straight to the fridge and pulled out the leftovers. Spare ribs and rice. I decided I needed some veggies too and all of the sudden -- OH NO! --there I was holding an empty plastic bag in my hand.

So much for my no-plastic day - it was trickier than I thought! I'll have to try again sometime. Stupid corn. 

(ok, I wasn't THIS upset)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lilac Art Series 2015 - a sampling

Here are a few shots from last night at the Lilac Arts Series. It's an interesting exhibit but I only saw part of it because for the first time ever in her time at Pier 25, the retired USCG buoy tender Lilac reached her official insurance-dictated capacity of 149 and there was a line to get in. I decided to leave to let somebody else board; I work not far away and I will come back on another day to see what I missed. The exhibit runs through August 15th, and it's definitely worth a visit!

Oops, note slightly later - just realized this wasn't much of a sampling, somehow I thought there was more art in here but mostly it's just the ship! I think it was just too crowded for good picture taking. All the more reason to go back, right? 

I finish here with a snippet of video of one of the exhibits - I didn't see everything but of what I did see, Lilac's Dream was my favorite. If you're going, it might be a bit of a spoiler. Click "watch in YouTube" to read more about the installation - it's very neat, what the artist did.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lilac Art Show opens tonight, runs through August

Oops, with all the excitement over Hokule'a, this one really snuck up on me - retired USCG buoy tender Lilac opens for the season tonight with another set of installations for always-enjoyable Lilac Arts Series. Head on over to the Working Harbor Committee blog for more information plus a couple more nice views of the Lilac!

Monday, May 18, 2015

An Amazing Weekend with the Polynesian Voyaging Society

New York Outrigger members welcome Nainoa Thompson (on the right), lead navigator of the Hōkūle'a and Executive Director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, to Pier 66 in the Hudson River Park. 
I am deeply grateful for an amazing weekend spent in the company of members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society as preparations begin to welcome the Hōkūle'a to NYC in 2016. The meetings were informative and inspirational and those alone would have been fine. 

Having the chance to take a seat in one of New York Outrigger's OC-6's as they took Nainoa, Lehua and Jenna (two of the next generation of navigators) out for a sunset paddle on the Hudson after the planning meeting was an unexpected and amazing bonus. Follow the Hōkūle'a's amazing Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage at, for NYC details, keep an eye on the NYC microsite at or the website of Hālāwai, the Hawaiian cultural organization that is leading the welcome efforts,

Mahalo nui loa to New York Outrigger for letting me tag along!

More to come if I can find the words.   

Friday, May 15, 2015


Image swiped from Bigeye tuna poke, aka DA BOMB! 

When Baydog first told me about Noreetuh over on Facebook, with a link to a article whose title included the word "Hawaiian", I was pretty excited. Then, I read the menu, at which point I instantly switched to pretty disappointed.

The article called Noreetuh Hawaiian, but the menu was more Asian fusion with a Hawaiian spin. The idea of a Hawaiian restaurant within easy walking distance of my office had me absolutely over the moon (Onomea is FABULOUS, but the fact is that they're not really convenient to anywhere I ever am, it's always a special trip to go there, and they're worth the occasional special trip but that's why I've only been there twice so far). Hawaiian-spun Asian fusion is nice but just not the same. 

To give the owners credit, I do see that the description on their own website is "Hawaiian inspired" and also recognizes Korean, Japanese, and Filipino cuisines as highly influential -- if the article Baydog had sent had used that sort of phrasing instead of "NEW HAWAIIAN RESTAURANT" (#$@!!!), the letdown-driven crankiness would have been much less, possibly even non-existent. 

Not surprising for East Coast restaurant reviewers to miss that fine point, though, and even with the disappointment the menu still looked pretty good, with 3 particularly Island-inspired items on the menu that I did want to go try at some point. I did that tonight, in honor of this weekend's Hokule'a events.

I sat at the bar and ordered from the bartender. I started with 2 items from the appetizer menu; he asked if he could bring them in the order in which they were ready, I said fine and that worked out great. 

First one out was the bigeye tuna poke, and this totally got me off on the right foot. So so so so good! Tender fresh tuna, a pleasantly salty dressing, a couple of kinds of veggies (either 2 kinds of seaweed or seaweed and something in the cabbage family, whatever the 2nd one was it was rufflier and  added a really nice texture), buttery crunchy crushed macadamia nuts, and pickled jalapeno slices adding just the perfect little touch of heat. Funny, the poke is one of my favorites at Onomea too - maybe it's just that I really love poke, but Noreetuh's poke, along with their proximity to the Dempsey's Irish Traditional Music Session​, was good enough for me to decide that yes, this might be one to add to my list of places for pre-session dinners. Onolicious, da poke. 

The kalua pork croquettes turned up just as I was chasing the last shred of seaweed around the poke plate. These, I didn't find quite as exciting. Funny thing was that my reaction to the real thing was exactly the same as my reaction when I saw them on the menu, namely: when you have something as delicious as kalua pig, why on earth would you want to go and fritter it away in a croquette? 

The croquettes were served with pickled cabbage (nice nod to how kalua pig is usually served with cabbage) and katsu sauce, and when I cut into the first one I got a delicious whiff of smoke, mmm, - but then I took my first bite and the pork WAS delicious and tender and smoky - but it was all mushed in with a bunch of silly potatoes, which diluted the flavor to the point where the katsu sauce helped. Really wish they'd given an option for having the kalua pig as a standalone dish - that wouldn't have needed ANY sauce. Chili peppah watah optional, but not necessary.  

S'alright though, that does at least leave me the option of coming back for the poke and something else - I can sometimes be a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to ordering, always have a certain favorite and never try anything else. 

Both servings were nicely sized but fortunately, I was left with enough room for the dessert that I'd already picked as the third thing I had to try - the King's Hawaiian​ Sweet Bread Pudding. Holy cow. I love love love King's Hawaiian. I love love love bread pudding. Bread pudding made out of King's Hawaiian? 


And OMG. It looked so good that the couple sitting to my left asked me what it was and decided they had to order it too, and it just every bit as insanely delicious as I expected it to be - like French toast that had died and gone to heaven and then specifically returned to earth to do heavenly good deeds for undeserving mortals. 

A minute after mine appeared, the young lady to my other side got her dessert - crispy mochi waffles, which also looked pretty good. You know what, though? I think I am going to indulge my inner stick-in-the-mud when it comes to dessert. King's Hawaiian bread pudding would be very hard to beat. 

So, yes, technically it was a two out of three situation - but the miss wasn't horrible, just disappointing in that one of the components would have been so splendid on its own,  and the two hits? Over the wall and out into the bay where the kayakers are waiting for the ball type home runs. 

I will definitely be back. 

How does my garden grow? So far so good.

Dragonetti's Garden Supply, Canarsie, Brooklyn - choices, choices!
Choices were - mystery heirloom tomatoes (the label just says "heirloom" and it's 4 mixed plants), grape tomatoes (I didn't have any little tomatoes last year and it seemed like I spent a lot of time waiting for the big ones to ripen, so I'm putting the little ones back in in hopes of a steadier stream), cukes, chard (I usually start this and the beets from seed but since I'm starting so late and they had chard seedlings at Dragonetti's, I got some of those - I put seeds in too but this'll move things along), sweet basil, and a Scotch bonnet pepper. Doesn't look like much but in a 4x6 plot, a little does indeed go a long way. I forgot the beet seeds but I had some left from last year in the junk drawer here at home and I've got those wrapped up in a wet paper towel to see if they'll sprout. 

Bed, pre-weeding - so many weeds!

 Post-weeding, fresh soil added

 All planted. The center has chard seeds and the space in front is where the beets go. 

I weeded and planted on Sunday. The forecast at one point had showed rain early in the week, so I thought it would be good timing; the rain never happened, and it actually got pretty hot, so I was a little worried as I was finally heading out to the club tonight that I was going to find everything wilted and dying. Everything was fine, though - either somebody watered on the hot days or the soil was still a little damp from the soaking I gave it on Sunday, there was a lot of fog the first couple of days of the week so it may just not have dried out as much as I was afraid it was going to when it spiked up into summer-type temperatures during the week. At any rate, seems to be off to a nice start and things should quiet down a bit at work once I finish this week's big project, so I should be able to get out to the club to tend things fairly regularly for a while after this. Might even mix that in with a little post-work paddling - the days are getting long enough and the gear has gotten light enough!

Glad to finally have it underway for 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

another one bites the dust...

We interrupt our normally scheduled boat blogging for a moment of SoHo sadness, lifted from a post-lunch Facebook rant:

Aaaaand the mallification of SoHo has marched on over the other old-school Cuban place where I used to occasionally go for lunch (hum a few bars of the Darth Vader theme music here if you like).

There used to be 2; my favorite was Las Brisas del Caribe, which was just a couple of blocks down from Scholastic and had delicious pernil, and then there was another one on Lafayette Street that I tried a couple of times after Las Brisas shut down a couple of years after I started working here. I didn't like their pernil quite as much (in fact it was after Las Brisas shut down and was replaced by just another trendy deli that I started making my own) but they would do in a pinch when I got a craving for roast pork, as I did today after a "Hawaiian-cuisine" disappointment in the cafeteria at lunch today. They were doing a luau theme there today in honor of the opening of the outdoor terrace we get to use in the warmer parts of the year. I wasn't expecting much, but all morning I did nurture a little sprig of hope that they might have risen above the just-add-pineapple version of Hawaiian food, thinking that they could so easily do something like an oven-roasted kalua pig  -- but unsurprisingly, they didn't, it was chicken skewered with pineapple chunks and such. 

So I set out in search of pernil. I couldn't remember the exact cross street where the place was, couldn't even remember the name, but I knew where the general vicinity was so I walked up to Broadway and over to Lafayette and than headed south.

I hadn't actually gone in a very long time, and I have to say that the way SoHo is these days, I was actually suspecting that there was another disappointment in store for me.

Sure enough, a few blocks down, I found a construction hoarding around the place that I'm pretty sure used to house the restaurant. Bummer, bummer, bummer.

And then, to add insult to injury, or maybe injury to insult, I nearly got trampled by a totally oblivious guided gang of tourists on the way back to the office in one of those construction site sidewalks that are barricaded on the street side so you can't escape. I may have gotten ever so slightly elbowy with one particular gent who apparently thought that twelve inches was sufficient passing room. Really, tourists, could you just keep your eyes open a little bit when you're walking? See helpful video below!

I did eventually find some lunch (Honey chili pork belly over jasmine rice with a really good beansprout salad) at the Sweet Chili food truck that was parked on Broadway just north of Houston Street, and it was nice to get a walk in - but I'm sad about that Cuban place being gone.

Monday, May 11, 2015

One paddle, two paddle

One paddle this weekend, one paddle last weekend, and one the week before, in fact (season opener, where I forgot to take my camera)! Back in the saddle again. I'll have to skip next weekend, that's when the folks from the Polynesian Voyaging Society will be here and even though I'm not an educator, I'm actually planning to attend all three events (click here for details), but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we have nice weather on at least the 24th, because I hope to have my first sail of 2015 that day, when the Sailing Committee holds the first cruise of the season. They've actually been having a Spring Racing Series, and there were at least a couple of those I could've joined in on (not too windy, I mean) but I did want to join the kayak cavalcade on Opening Day, and since TQ will be back on his summer schedule of working weekends soon, I'm glad we got a couple of good paddles together in here before that starts.

I especially enjoy getting sequential paddles in this time of year, when the bay is making the big spring transition, which is such a glorious thing to watch. With thirty people on the Opening Day paddle, I wasn't paying as much attention to the surroundings as I was to catching up with the friends who came out, but we did see that the Canarsie Pol ospreys were back, and the cherry tree by the ramp to the dock was looking very beautiful. Fortunately I mentioned how much I usually like to take pictures when that happens to one of the sailors, and Lissa was kind enough to take out her phone and get a few shots for me. Beautiful! I'm always a little amazed by this cherry tree - it ends up standing in a little bit of salt water every time we get a particularly high tide, and yet it seems to do fine. Tough little tree. 

Such fine weather for the season opener. 

Lovely weather the next weekend, too. TQ and I went out around Ruffle Bar; it was low low water so Ruffle Bar was extra-big; mapping out what I think we did, it came to a little under 8 miles. The water was a little bit warmer; the really notable thing was the massive flock of brants off of Canarsie Pol. We think that they must have just gotten in from somewhere to the south en route their summer nesting grounds and were exhausted; usually brants are rather skittish birds, it's very hard to approach them a kayak and not have the entire flock take to the air with a roar of beating wings and alarmed "hrrrrnk hrrrnk"s. One of my early paddling mentors taught his students that when paddling among waterfowl, your goal should be to stay far enough away from them that they don't take off. With a big flock of brants in Jamaica Bay, that's hard to do, because they'll stretch out across the water as far as you can see. We think these guys must just have been totally wiped out, because they were just swimming fast to to get out of our way. Every now and then two or three would go airborne, but they'd land again just a few yards away and the rest of the flock stayed on the water.

Coming back, we had these little surf waves that TQ's Sparrowhawk just loves, and he went surfing off ahead of me - I realized as he went off that the flock was doing the bare minimum to move to the side ahead of him, leaving a basically brant-free corridor behind him - I followed and there were birds to the left and birds to the right, but not one flew as I went by. 

Yesterday, TQ and I did another very straightforward paddle. If you saw yesterday's post, Foggy Day in Jamaica Bay, you already saw my favorite picture from the day. It was one of those spring days that's actually tricky to dress for - the air temperature wasn't that high, didn't quite get up to 70, but the high humidity made you feel very warm very quickly if you were moving around at all. I ended up in my Farmer Jane wetsuit and a rashguard, with a short-sleeved nylon windbreaker top AND a long sleeved jacket ready to go if necessary. TQ actually put on a paddling jacket while we were getting ready and a minute later changed his mind. It was that weird a day.

We launched around 1. A larger group had launched at 11; we got back just after they did and although we'd seen some fog, it sounds like it had lightened up quite a bit - the larger group had set out planning to go to West Pond, in the  Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Broad Channel Island, but when they came out from under the bridge, they changed their plan to a trip that hugged the shore, because they couldn't see across the bay. I'd been sort of thinking the same thing when I suggested that we head for the bridge instead of out into the bay - also, I hadn't been past the bridge in a long time and I do like to get out to where things open up a bit. Conditions were so quiet that you didn't have that sense of a bigger swell that you sometimes get when you pass the inlet, but it was still nice to get out there.

Again, measuring it out, I think we did just under 10 miles, out from under the bridge and around the corner into Dead Horse Bay, then back.

We've still got loons - one surfaced right next to my boat as we were heading out, I mean, like, a foot from the side of my boat, I'm not sure which of us was more surprised! I was laughing hysterically (loonily, you might even say), the loon scuttled off to a safe distance and glared at me. I would argue that it is the one who is coming up from underwater who is responsible for making sure that their surfacing area is clear of vessel traffic (my dad would know that, he's a retired submariner), but I also suspect that waterfowl don't read the Rules of the Road. I'm wondering if the white hull of my boat was hard for the loon to see against the grey of the sky as she was coming up, I've never had a bird come up that close to me before. 

There seemed to be a much smaller number of brants, last week's huge flock has probably moved on. The terns are back in force, though - I think we saw one or two last week, this week they were everywhere.

And speaking of things coming back, it seems that the boat lift operators at the marinas and clubs have been busy - even on a foggy drizzly day like this, I think we saw four times as many motorboats out as we saw on that sparkly sunny day the week before. The time of having the bay to ourselves is definitely over until next Fall. So long solitude, here comes Summer!

Back at TQ's, I made dinner (well, I reheated some homemade pasta sauce and boiled up some rotini) and we toasted the day with a most unusual beer! Quite good, actually - I wasn't sure what to expect but it turns out that Iron Maiden makes a pretty tasty refreshing adult beverage. Who knew? 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Hokule'a NYC update - new info page!

Hokule'a NYC preparations now have a page on Hokule' - right now there's info for all 3 events that will be happening here in NYC while Nainoa and others from Hawaii are in town on the weekend of May 16th.

There's the Educator Workshop, the fundraising cocktail reception at the Harvard Club, and then on the 17th there is a planning workshop at NYU. If you are interested in attending any or all of those, visit

The Small Boat Shop is going out of business.

Sad news from South Norwalk - after 35 years of excellent service to tri-state area paddlers, rowers, and dinghy sailors, the Small Boat Shop is closing down. April's "Spring Cleaning Sale" was actually more of a clearance sale, and is extending on into May (although I don't know exactly what the discounts are now). They've actually been winding down for a while, so don't go expecting the shiniest new gee-whiz doohickeys of 2015, but they always had good stuff there, and if you've been meaning to go shopping to fill out your kit for Spring, and you're in the area, it would be worth a visit.

Want more info? Visit for contact info.

Saturday, May 02, 2015